"Is That All There Is?" - Peggy Lee
Perspective changes everything.
Looked at up close, Apple is boring, Facebook is in decline, and Silicon Valley is more about serving up mouthwatering perks and "F-U" liquidity events than real innovation.
Yet, with a bit of perspective, we see how in a 30 year period, Apple has given rise to the PC, reinvented the phone, broke the hegemony of old media and telecom, and launched the Post PC era.
In fact, Apple is still growing so rapidly that in the last year alone, they generated three Fortune 500 companies worth of new income.
Now, the rumors are that they're launching a new payment system to take advantage of the 500 million iPhones and iPads in use today (many/most with a valid credit card on file).
Apple CEO Tim Cook has hinted at a new category. It could be anything from a personal monitoring 'companion' device to a set-top box for the living room.
But, that's boring (conventional wisdom narrative), and Apple must be repeatedly punished for it.
Meanwhile, Facebook is the proverbial case of, "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
I still remember when ten million users represented an insanely large base for any service.
In fact, AOL, the gorilla of the early online era, never passed 30 million subscribers.
By contrast, Facebook has 1.2 BILLION monthly active users. That's 60 Floridas!
Despite all of the talk that Facebook's dominion dies with the desktop, 77% of its users are accessing the service from mobile devices, generating over half of their advertising revenue.
Is Innovation Dead?
Now, of course, growth and money do not equate to insanely great.
So, is innovation dead? Are we doomed to a decade of Snapchat clones and Instagram wanna-bes?
Up close, it may seem like it, but with the benefit of some perspective, you realize how we are really at the end of the BEGINNING of the next wave.
Want some perspective? Consider this thought-provoking interview with Kevin Kelly, who helped launch Wired, and is one of the sharpest thinkers of our time.
Here's his take:
"If we were sent back with a time machine, even 20 years, and reported to people what we have right now and describe what we were going to get in this device in our pocket—we'd have this free encyclopedia, and we'd have street maps to most of the cities of the world, and we'd have box scores in real time and stock quotes and weather reports, PDFs for every manual in the world—we'd make this very, very, very long list of things that we would say we would have and we get on this device in our pocket, and then we would tell them that most of this content was free. You would simply be declared insane. They would say there is no economic model to make this. What is the economics of this? It doesn't make any sense, and it seems far-fetched and nearly impossible."
Of course, he's right.
What we take for granted as obvious and inevitable, was heretical just twenty years ago.
Doubt this assertion? Do a google search on "silicon snake oil" or "clifford stoll" and see what I mean.
Today, Stoll's opinions sound as ridiculous as witch burners in the time of Salem's Lot.
But then, it was conventional wisdom.
This gets to the nut of Kelly's perspective, which he espouses in great detail, and brilliantly, in his book, 'What Technology Wants.'
What Technology Wants envisions the rise of machines, networks, robots, sensors, systems, data and intelligence EVERYWHERE to the point that they become part of the fabric of life itself (Kelly calls this the Technium).
In other words, you aint seen nothing yet.
As Kelly puts it, "The next twenty years are going to make this last twenty years just pale. We're just at the beginning of the beginning of all these kind of changes. There's a sense that all the big things have happened, but relatively speaking, nothing big has happened yet."
The Uber experience is a revelation today. Dropbox delivers constancy. Amazon amazes. Google Maps is simply magical.
But twenty years from now, every industry and almost every aspect of life will have been uberized, and we will have embedded this logic into our very fabric.
As this organism, the technium, begins to breathe, it will etch new paths, launch new vehicles and drive a new economy.
The future awaits, my friends, but we'll be ready.